Sestak on deficits; Rendellis

For months now, Republican Pat Toomey has labeled Democrat Joe Sestak as a big-spending liberal who’s voted to explode the federal government’s deficit. The Senate nominee tried to turn the tables during an appearance in Harrisburg this afternoon.

In a speech to the Pennsylvania Press Club, Sestak said by voting for President Bush’s tax cuts and budgets, Toomey was “practically pro-deficit.” He added Toomey “wants more tax cuts for the top one percent that will add 650 billion dollars to the deficit. My opponent has a lot of theories about the economy, but controlling deficits is not one of them.”

In contrast, Sestak framed himself as a fiscal moderate who wants to balance the government’s books.

Toomey’s campaign manager, Mark Harris, countered Sestak’s speech was “laughable,” and accused the Democrat of having a “selective memory.” Harris pointed out Sestak voted for the 2008  financial bailout, the 2009 federal stimulus package, the health care overhaul, and other measures that have boosted the federal deficit. Sestak defends most of those votes as emergency measures aimed at keeping the economy from sinking into a depression.

Harris took the speech as a complement, suggesting Sestak has co-opted Republican talking points in the face of the harsh political climate Democrats are facing.

The federal government ran a 1.4 trillion dollar deficit during the 2009 fiscal year. If you’re as confused as I am over who ran up more deficits, check out this helpful chart from the Congressional Budget Office. Additionally, CBO recently published out an executive summary of how the deficit has ballooned in recent years, and where federal spending is headed over the coming decade.

In much less wonky news,  I asked Sestak after the event whether Governor Rendell had ever taken him up on his pre-primary offer of  a hatchet-burying lunch at WaWa. (After Governor Rendell told our Politics as Usual podcast Sestak had “no chance of winning” the contest, Sestak said he looked forward to eating a “Rendelli” with the governor.)

Sestak laughed, and asked the gaggle of a dozen reporters if he was being taped.

Mail call: Toomey edition

Here’s the latest press release from Team Toomey.


Toomey Calls on Sestak to Return Earmark-
Tainted Contributions and to

Sign the “No Pork” Pledge

Allentown, PA – Today, at a press conference at Independence Hall National Park, U.S. Senate candidate and former small business owner Pat Toomey called on his opponent, Congressman Joe Sestak, to return campaign contributions he took in violation of his own earmark pledge and to sign Citizens Against Government Waste’s “No Pork” pledge.

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week, Joe Sestak made a pledge on his campaign website to return any contributions made to his campaign by people who requested and received earmarks through his congressional office.

His website reads: “If an organization or individual has made a request for an appropriations project, and has made a contribution to his campaign, he returns that contribution.”

But according to the same Inquirer article, Congressman Sestak violated his own pledge, taking $119,650 in contributions from people who received earmarks from him.  Today, Pat Toomey called on Congressman Sestak to live up to his pledge and return the $119,650.

Pat also called on Congressman Sestak to sign Citizens Against Government Waste’s No Pork pledge, which Pat has already signed.

Congressman Sestak has said multiple times that he supports earmark reform, but he has taken no demonstrable steps to put his words into action.  In fact, he continues to violate his own pledge to Pennsylvania taxpayers and has refused to get rid some of the most outrageous and wasteful earmarks in Congress, including:

$325,000 for the Institute for Seafood Studies in Thibodaux, Louisiana. (RC #382, 06/18/09)$250,000 for the Monroe County Farmer’s Market in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. (RC #631, 07/23/09)$150,000 for the restoration of Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York. (RC #472, 06/26/09)$100,000 for the Myrtle Beach Conference Center in South Carolina. (RC #567, 07/16/09)$1 million for potato research in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. (RC # 507, 07/09/09)$50,000 for the National Mule and Packers Museum in California. (RC #700, 06/24/07)$2 million to establish the “Rangel Center for Public Service” at City College of New York, requested by none other than Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY). (RC #678, 07/19/07)

“How can Pennsylvanians trust Congressman Sestak when he says one thing and does another?” Toomey Communications Director Nachama Soloveichik asked.  “He promised to return earmark-related contributions, but he has yet to return $119,000 uncovered by the Philadelphia Inquirer.  He also promised to support earmark reform, but he has refused to sign a No Pork pledge and has voted to spend taxpayer dollars on wasteful projects like concert halls and the Mule and Packers Museum in California.  Now is the time for Congress Sestak to put his money where his mouth is.”

Toomey: Obama and Sestak are wrong on cap-and-trade

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey says he’s strongly against federal cap-and-trade legislation.

Speaking at a Dauphin County coffee shop, Toomey warned the energy measure that passed the House last year would cause rates to skyrocket.

Toomey says even Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission is against the bill.

A PUC spokeswoman says Toomey is referring to a letter three commissioners sent to Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation last year, in which they urged lawmakers to vote against the measure.

Democrat Joe Sestak disagrees, and argues a shift toward renewable energy sources would grow Pennsylvania’s economy over the long term. Sestak voted for the cap-and-trade bill last June.

Many environmental advocates are urging President Obama to renew his support for a final energy bill during tomorrow night’s Oval Office speech.

During his recent appearance in Pittsburgh, Obama said a continued dependence on oil will “jeopardize [the United States’] national security…and smother [the] planet.”

Toomey: keep drilling

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey says it would be a mistake to scale back domestic and off-shore oil drilling in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Toomey says the BP spill is a “huge disaster,” and the company needs to be held accountable – but he says the United States needs to ramp up, not scale back, domestic oil exploration over the next few decades.

Toomey says he’s not minimizing the impact – he’s just concerned federal officials will overreact to it. “Something went wrong here, and we’ve got to fix it,” he says. “If there were regulators that tolerated practices that are not safe, then we’ve got to change that. We’ve got to absolutely make sure this never happens again, but at this point I think it’s a little premature to say exactly how we do that, because I’m not sure it’s entirely clear exactly what went wrong. So we’ve got to get to the bottom of that first.” To that end, the Republican says President Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium might have gone too far.

Toomey’s opponent, Democrat Joe Sestak, says he’s against expanding offshore drilling’s footprint.

Sestak says he supports Obama’s moratorium, and wants to see regulations tightened before offshore oil exploration is allowed to resume. . “Congressman Toomey is saying there’s no need for accountability,” says Sestak. “Just drill. That’s wrong.”

Toomey jumps into Specter ad fray

Republican Pat Toomey has joined Joe Sestak in criticizing Senator Arlen Specter’s recent attack ad. Here’s the text of an open letter the likely GOP nominee sent to Specter’s Senate office.

April 23, 2010
Senator Arlen Specter
711 Hart Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Specter:
It is a clear matter of record that I have very strong disagreements with Congressman Joe Sestak on many important issues affecting the economy, health care, taxes, and even national security.  But I also have the utmost respect for his decades of military service to our country.  It is highly regrettable that you have chosen to disparage an honorable man’s military service in order to promote your own political career.
Over the years, you have developed a reputation for political attacks ads.  I had not even announced my candidacy last spring when you raced out of the blocks with an attack ad that was so wildly inaccurate it was quickly discredited by fact checkers and news organizations.  You will recall that your ad was characterized by FactCheck.Org as a “scorched-earth slip-up” and you were forced to remove it from the airwaves.
But now you have stooped to a new low, attacking Congressman Sestak’s thirty-year military service.  This is not only insulting to veterans across America who sacrifice so much to protect our nation, but to all Pennsylvanians.  Is there no low to which you will not stoop in an attempt to win an election?
Our state’s Democratic primary voters will decide whether they prefer you or Congressman Sestak as their nominee, and that is their right.  But it’s pretty clear that there will be two different races in the fall depending on their choice.  Joe Sestak and I have already engaged in two spirited, yet civil debates.  Pennsylvanians can rightly expect that we would continue in that manner, which is not only respectful to each other, but more importantly, respectful to voters.  If you become your new party’s nominee, then it appears that Pennsylvanians will be in for one outrageous or blatantly false attack ad after another.  Our state deserves better.
I hope you will do the right thing and remove your attack on Joe Sestak’s military service.  And I hope you will pledge to the citizens of our state that should you make it to the general election, you will cease your brand of negative advertising that the Pittsburgh Tribune Review called “embarrassing.”

Sincerely,
Pat Toomey

Toomey raises $2.3 million

The first of many fund raising-related posts to come this week:

Pat Toomey’s campaign raised $2.3 million last quarter, according to information released this afternoon. The Republican Senate candidate now has about four million dollars in his warchest, as he prepares for a general election campaign against either Senator Arlen Specter or Congressman Joe Sestak. (Toomey is facing conservative activist Peg Luksik in the GOP primary, but is expected to easily cruise there.) PoliticsPA has the details, and the campaign press release is below.

Toomey Gains Momentum,

Raises $2.3 Million in First Quarter of 2010

Allentown, PA – In 2009, Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey raised more campaign funds than any Senate challenger candidate in the nation.  Today, the Toomey campaign is pleased to announce that it has begun 2010 with its most successful fundraising quarter to date, taking in $2.3 million in the months of January through March, and reaching over $4 million in cash-on-hand.

In the last quarter of 2009, Pat Toomey surpassed 30-year incumbent Senator Arlen Specter’s quarterly fundraising total.  In this first quarter of 2010, while Specter has so far not announced his numbers, Toomey has outraised long-time incumbents such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former presidential candidate John McCain. With over 40,000 individual donors, it is clear that voters are enthusiastic about Toomey’s candidacy.

In the last several months, Toomey has also been surging in the polls, leading both Specter and his Democratic primary opponent Congressman Joe Sestak in most publicly released polls.  As more and more Pennsylvanians rally to Toomey’s message of fiscal responsibility and political balance in Washington, they are simultaneously rejecting Arlen Specter’s blatant political opportunism and Washington careerism.

“I am very appreciative of the deluge of support I have received for my candidacy,” Mr. Toomey said.  “As I travel across the state, I meet more and more Pennsylvanians who want to join our campaign and help bring true change and fiscal sanity to Washington.  If I am elected to the U.S. Senate, I intend to do just that.”

Sestak and Toomey appear on Fox and Friends

It’s not often that I link to “Fox and Friends,” but Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey made a joint appearance on the show this morning, so here’s the video:

Republican State Committee Forum=

Good evening. It’s not the Olympic Opening Ceremonies — but Pennsylvania’s Republican State Committee meets tonight and tomorrow to endorse candidates in this spring’s statewide primaries. Gubernatorial and Senate candidates will participate in a forum tonight, and I’ll be live-blogging the events.

===========================================================

8:19 Not too many details about that reform plan from Corbett. He says he’ll fill in the specifics later, but then spoke broadly about making lawmakers accountable for the line-item details of their per-diems.  Both Corbett and Rohrer said Pennsylvania shouldn’t have accepted federal stimulus dollars — though Corbett acknowledged that, in reality, Pennsylvania didn’t really have much say in the matter.

Rohrer knocked Corbett a bit for suggesting CareerLink should be expanded, saying the state doesn’t need any new programs.

From the “a bit off-message” department, State GOP Executive Director Luke Bernstein brushed reporters away from Corbett after two questions, saying something along the lines of, “people paid money to eat dinner with the Attorney General.”

7:52 And…that’s it! A short debate. Off to question the candidates. More updates to come.

7:52 Corbett says he and Rohrer “agree we…must cut the size of this budget.” Praises legislative Republicans for “stopping the governor…last time.” Opines fact state “can’t go back a billion dollars.”

Mentions his two-year budget cycle idea. “It would bring certainty and predictability to the people who do receive state money.” Also mentions Welfare, Education and Corrections. “If we reduce just four percent of the errors ineligibility guidelines we’d save [300+ million] dollars.”

Says he’s do “zero-based budgeting,” to ask each agency to justify its entire budget. “You have to go in with the desire to spend the money carefully.”

7:48 Question 2: What’s your plan to reign in spending? What programs would you cut?

Rohrer — “One thing you can do is this — you can reduce spending across the board.” Rohrer says he’s pledged he will not sign a tax increase bill. “The voters of this state cannot afford a tax increase.”

You have to go where you spend the most money. Welfare, Education and Corrections. “I can guarantee you there are duplicity programs. Things…we must not do and cannot do, and exceed our ability to pay.”

“Saying no to federal money and cutting strings that require us to spend federal money,” another idea, he says.

7:45 Rohrer — people don’t leave the state because they don’t like it here. They leave because there are no jobs, or because the cost of living is too high in Pennsylvania. … Why are there no jobs? Lists “a hostile business climate.” Labor climate — “fact is, more of our business has gone down south because of labor climate,” more than taxes.

Says people can’t afford to live in PA due to property taxes. “They can’t afford to live here, so they go somewhere they can live, and they generally go south.”

“The solution isn’t new programs. Frankly, if we want to reduce spending we’ve got to cut programs.”

7:42 First Youtube question — how would you keep young workers in PA?

Corbett — It’s important to me my kids stayed in Pennsylvania. (They’re in their thirties.) “We need to start looking, back in high school and college — we’re not guiding our students into [tech jobs].” Says workforce development boards could help guide students into these types of careers. “We need to look at CareerLink….we need to expand that to our college students and our high schools who are graduating.”

The most important area is the business tax climate. “We are losing 1 in 4 PAns every year. They are going to places that are competitive, like Texas, Florida….places that have a tax environment that understands business is good, that free enterprise is good.”

7:39 Now it’s Corbett’s turn. “The same message I’ve recieved — Pennsylvania has seen better times, but it’s struggling.”  Mentions decline of “stimulus money we should never have taken in the first place,” pension fund, and other financial issues.

State needs “leadership that brings results, not rhetoric. It’s time to change Harrisburg. We all know that.”

“You know when I made promises as Attorney General, I kept them. I was one of 13 Republican AGs…that told the Congress, do not make exceptions for one state to the detriment of other states” (Referencing Ben Nelson’s Medicaid “Nebraska compromise.”

His agenda? “J-O-B-S.” Fiscal discipline, limited government and free enterprise” would do that, he says.

Corbett says he’ll send a reform plan to the GA during his first week on the job. The package would “eliminate WAMs, reduce the state car fleet, reform per-diems — not just for state legislators, but for all government employees.”

“We can and we must reduce taxes.”

7:20 Rohrer’s opening statement: Washington has failed, and so has the Rendell Administration. Says they’ve left “most monumental challenges” to next governor. “The fact of the matter is, politics as normal is gone…the time that we can lead by polls is passed. The time that we can collectively…deal with issues that are convenient or deal with issues we can deal with in the next two years, before the next election…those days have got to stop.”

…”The Rendell Administration has let this state in very poor economic condition.” Calls PA’s tax structure “unfriendly,” and says state’s regulatory climate needs to change. “Instead of putting road blocks in front of small business, actually befriend them.”

Says employees shouldn’t be forced to join a union or pay union dues.

“We are insolvent. We don’t have enough money to pay our bills.”

If PA doesn’t deal with its budget problem swiftly and firmly, “we are going to be like California.” Says NO to all new taxes…”We have a property tax issue. I have led the fight to eliminate the property tax.” Elimination would be good for small businesses, home owners and farmers. “We can’t sustain the way we fund public education. It’s got to change.”

Calls for school choice — “that’s a moral issue. It’s an educational issue.”

Rendell “puts its hand out” to the federal government “at every turn.” State needs to be more financially independent.

7:25 The gubernatorial forum is about to begin. Each candidate will get one question submitted via Youtube.

7:21 Perry called up to stage to receive the GOP’s Leadership Award (it’s a Reagan bust), as well as a personal letter from former President George W. Bush.   Perry is a a Lt. Colonel in the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. Perry piloted helicopters and oversaw logistics during the recent tour in southern Iraq.

7:19 Shout-out for Rep. Scott Perry, who recently returned from Iraq

7:12 Renee Amoore: “Do we believe in diversity? Yes! Do we believe in a big tent? [applause] Do we believe we are inclusive of everybody?”

7:09: Proceedings underway. The MCs are doing their best to pump up the crowd. “We’re going to get this party started!”

7:01: People filing into the ballroom. A big band is jazzing up the room. Sounds like the format will be a four-minute opening statement from each candidate, followed by two rounds of questions.

What Rasmussen giveth, Rasmussen taketh away

Earlier this week, supporters of Senator Arlen Specter were thrilled with the results of a Rasmussen poll showing the incumbent up 53 to 32 in his primary race against Congressman Joe Sestak.

Today’s Rasmussen poll tells a different story — it has Republican Pat Toomey up 49 to 40 on Specter. (Toomey also holds a 43-35 lead over Sestak.)

From the pollster’s website:

Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent Senator Arlen Specter 49% to 40% in Pennsylvania’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Pennsylvania voters also finds Toomey with a 43% to 35% lead over Democratic challenger Joe Sestak.

A month ago Toomey led Specter by four and Sestak by six. In the state’s Democratic Senate Primary race, Specter now leads Sestak by 21 points.

Just 41% of Pennsylvania voters favor the health care legislation currently before Congress while 57% are opposed. Those figures include 22% who Strongly Favor the legislation and 47% who are Strongly Opposed. Those who Strongly Oppose the health care plan overwhelmingly prefer Toomey over either Democrat. Those who Strongly Favor the plan prefer the Democrats.

Pennsylvania attitudes towards the health care plan are similar to the national average. The health care issue played a key role in Tuesday’s stunning Massachusetts special Senate election.

Just five percent (5%) of Pennsylvania voters rate the economy as good or excellent while 51% say poor. Only 31% say it’s getting better, while 42% say it’s getting worse.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

Political analyst Larry Sabato now rates the Pennsylvania Senate race as a toss-up, but, given the current political climate, he says Toomey would be the winner if the election were held today. Sabato also projects that if the election were held today, the Democrats’ 59-seat majority in the Senate would be down to 52.

Specter is viewed very favorably by 16% of Pennsylvania voters but very unfavorably by more than twice as many (33%).

Twelve percent (12%) have a very favorable view of Toomey, while 10% regard him very unfavorably. For Sestak, very favorables total eight percent (8%), and very unfavorables stand at 11%.

PA Senate candidates react to Brown

Pat Toomey thinks President Obama’s health care overhaul is dead – at least in its current form. He doesn’t see Senate Democrats attempting to pass a bill through reconciliation, and is confident the House won’t accept the upper chamber’s December legislation.

Like many Republicans, Toomey views Scott’s Brown’s win as a repudiation of the health care bill, which he calls “a monstrosity.” He says despite a year of blunders by Democratic leaders, “even they recognize that when the people of Massachusetts resoundingly reject their agenda, especially the centerpiece of their agenda, it’s time to reconsider.”

During an interview this morning, Toomey trashed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s transactional approach to passing a health care bill.

(Incidentally, the New York Times has a great profile of Reid on its website right now. It’s definitely worth your time.)

Despite his health care prediction, Toomey says he’s not writing off the entire Obama agenda.  “We still have to be concerned that bad policies could come out. It’s not clear that everything is fine because of 41 Republicans. Some of those Republicans, at times, will come down on some of these things in a way I don’t agree with. I don’t think we’re out of the woods on some of the harmful elements in the agenda.”

On the Democrat’s future? “I certainly hope they recalibrate, and that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid don’t realize that America as a whole doesn’t look like San Francisco.”

Pennsylvania’s two Democratic candidates, incumbent Arlen Specter and challenger Joe Sestak, are also weighing in on the Brown upset.  Sestak says Democrats “have lost the seat of Senator Ted Kennedy and have seriously jeopardized his life’s work of seeing that all Americans have access to health care.” He blames the bill’s unpopularity on the party establishment that’s backing Specter, saying, “back-room political dealing in the Senate delayed this bill, weakened this bill, and tarnished it in the eyes of the American people.”

Specter’s take? “The Massachusetts election shows Washington must change its ways.  Now that there 59 Democrats in the Senate, it will be indispensable for at least some bipartisanship to deal with the serious problems confronting America.”

And finally, long shot GOP candidate Peg Luksik calls the Brown win, “a reminder for Congress to listen to the people. The people of Massachusetts, just like the people of Pennsylvania, want our lawmakers in Washington to pay attention to what the citizens have to say with regards to health care reform, tax increases, bloated spending, and our national security.”

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